Port Adelaide v North Melbourne
Friday, April 26 - 7.50pm ACST
Port Adelaide (3-2) v North Melbourne (1-4)
Port Adelaide and North Melbourne come into this clash in contrasting form, but both are hoping that a win can catapult them up the ladder.
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Port is in red-hot form, fresh off an impressive 42-point upset win over the reigning premiers, West Coast, at Optus Oval.
As for North, it will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 58-point loss to the Dons, and get its season back on track.
Last time we met
It’s been almost a year since Port and North last met, with the two sides going toe-to-toe at the then Etihad Stadium in Round 6 last year.
The Power walked away 33-point victors, off the back of a career-high 34 disposals from Jared Polec and 33 touches from Brad Ebert.
It was Port’s small forwards that made the biggest impact on the scoreboard, with Sam Gray kicking a team-high four goals, while Chad Wingard and Jake Neade each kicked two.
For the Roos, they were without Shaun Higgins who missed with a serious concussion, so it was up to their other midfielders to fill his void.
Cunnington led the side with 27 disposals and 7 clearances, but was relatively unassisted for much of the afternoon.
Unlike Port, it was North’s tall forwards that were accurate in front of goals, with Ben Brown and Jarrad Waite combining for 7 majors.
The last time these sides met at Adelaide Oval, it was Round 17, 2017, when the home side was victorious by 70 points.
Connor Rozee v Jasper Pittard
When these two sides met in the JLT 2 clash at Alberton Oval, Jasper Pittard started alongside the then untried Connor Rozee.
Since then, Rozee has gone on to become one of Port Adelaide’s most impactful players, while Pittard has proven himself to be a valuable defender for North.
Taken with pick 5 in last year’s National Draft, Rozee is leading his side’s goal-kicking tally with 8, and has kicked the second most goals amongst rising stars this season.
The 19-year-old has brought some much-needed pace and electricity into Port’s side, and earned himself a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination in Round 3 for his 21 disposal, 5 goal performance against the Brisbane Lions.
Pittard has largely flown under the radar this season, but has been one of, if not the most reliable defenders at Arden Street to date.
Averaging 20.4 disposals per match, the most since he was included in the All-Australian squad in 2016, Pittard’s ability play on talls and smalls is a valuable asset for North.
A strong overhead mark, he took a career-high 14 grabs against the Adelaide Crows in Round 4 and has complemented the likes of Scott Thompson and Robbie Tarrant well.
Not only will Pittard be motivated by his likely match-up with a exciting, young opponent, he’ll be energised by the fact he’ll have the opportunity to face-off against his old side.
Traded from the club at the end of 2018, this will be the 28-year-old’s first time against the Power, and it will be made even more meaningful given the game will be played at Adelaide Oval.
It’s won and lost in…
Against the Crows in Round 4, North looked as though it had rectified its clearance woes.
However, the Roos took a backward step against the Bombers a week later, conceding 49 points from stoppages, their second-most this season.
The likes of Dylan Shiel and Zach Merrett were able to expose North on the outside, and with a talented Port Adelaide midfield group waiting, the need to spread from the contest will be crucial for the Roos.
While Cunnington and Jed Anderson are proven contested ball winners, the likes of Polec, Trent Dumont, Aaron Hall and Luke Davies-Uniacke will need to provide greater assistance for their hard-nuts in the middle.
If the Roos can regain that midfield supremacy that they showed in 2018, they will be an ominous proposition.
It will be no easy task though, with stars such as Ollie Wines, Tom Rockliff, Sam Powell-Pepper and Scott Lycett likely to line up through the middle of the ground for Port.
Keep an eye on…
...Sam Gray and Jared Polec.
While he may not be the most well-known Gray in Port’s forward-line, Sam Gray may by the one that catches North fans by surprise this Friday night.
The lively forward has been a reliable contributor for the Power this season, kicking 5 goals and averaging 17 disposals per game.
The 27-year-old is coming off the back of his best performance this season, a 26-disposal, 8-mark, 5-tackle, 2-goal outing against the West Coast Eagles.
Last time these sides met, Gray starred with 4 goals.
While Polec may be an obvious candidate, he’s a logical one to keep your eye on, as he takes on his old side for the first time.
Departing at the end of 2018, the Adelaide Oval crowd is likely to make its feelings known for the midfielder each time he gets the ball, which may be often, given his importance to North.
Averaging 16.6 kicks per game this year, Polec has proven his ability to break the lines and hit targets with his elite left foot, which has been a large boost to the Roos when moving the ball forward.
A player who thrives on pressure, expect Polec to make his presence felt.